A closer look at Apple's Lion UI

This week I had my first glance the new OS from Apple (Lion? seriously? how long will the cat names last?).

At first I was happy that the GUI has had an update. The last few iterations of the OS have not really moved the visual layer of OS X on in any significant way, so it's good to see it finally shift. But is it a shift in the right direction?

Initially I noticed how icon driven the new is. Both large glossy icons on the desktop/home screen and within the Finder functions. Having recently come out the other side of a big old icon design project I can tell you that the Finder icons are head and shoulders above anything that has been deployed in the Mac environment to date.

The software design lead is now clearly from the mobile team. Bringing the same folder metaphors from the iPhone to desk/lap top devices.

So far, so good.

The next aspect of the visual design that I noticed was less pleasing. Apple has never been shy of a texture (brush metal, white gloss, aqua) and it's fair to say they are common in web design right now (hey check my background texture). In fact you could argue that the wide spread use of textures has been lead by Apple's design work. But I'm starting to see it slapped on way too much of the interface. Take this straightforward folder image.

Across the board Apple has exercised restrained design ethics and sense of cool reserve. So when flourishes creep in it can be somewhat jarring. The cheesy red bookmark in the address book as an example.

Overall it's good to see the visual design moving forward, but ultimately it has a long way to go before it can be considered on a par with it's hardware design.

Let's hope the new iTunes has been given some attention too.

There are more screengrabs over at Macstories , also on Usability Post and of course on the Apple site itself.